Lightgazing | Japan’s Best Illumination Spots of 2016


It’s that time of year again. When Japan lights up with “illumination” spectacles all around the country. The word illumination is Japan’s term for using numerous holiday bulbs to light up streets, gardens or other public spaces. The special events get a lot of attention and are always heavily attended. If you’re looking to participate, we’ve got you covered from North to South with  some of this year’s not-to-miss illumination shows.


Japan’s very first illumination occurred in Sapporo in 1981. A modest 1048 bulbs lit up Oodori Park in 1981. But the northern city has come a long way since then. This year’s “white illumination,” taking place in the same spot it did 32 years ago, features 420,000 that culminate in “crystal river” of lights. The entire show runs on self-generated biodiesel energy.

November 18 – December 25, 2016

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Thought flowers were only for the spring and summer? Think again. During the winter Tochigi’s Ashikaga Flower Park recreates many of their famous floral attractions using LED lights – 3.5 million LED lights to be exact. And yes, it includes their famous wisteria tree.

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If you’re in Tokyo, head to Tokyo Midtown. Each year the shopping/business complex puts on an impressive show and this year is now different. Their 2000 sq meter public yard is being converted into a “starlight garden” of 280,000 LED lights. They’re even boasting the world’s first attempt at installing “cross-over illumination,” which is supposedly some sort of cutting edge technology to create illuminated arches.

November 15 – December 25, 2016



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And while you’re at Tokyo Midtown, why not hop over to KITTE, the post office-turned shopping complex right outside Tokyo Station? There you’ll find an architect-designed Christmas tree accompanied by a special ceiling installation that creates the illusion of snow indoors. It was designed by Makoto Tanijiri.

November 24 – December 25, 2016

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One more in Tokyo. The famous Omotesando outside Harajuku Station just got lit up in “champagne gold” with 500K LED bulbs. It’s the perfect spot to get in the mood, while also checking things off your shopping list.

December 1 – December 25, 2016




If you’re interested in sheer numbers, head down to Kanagawa for the Sagamiko Illumillion. And this year they’re upping the ante with 6 million bulbs (what does that even look like when in storage?) The amusement park is also the Kanto region’s largest light show. And if that’s not enough of a reason to go, the amusement park rides stay open late during the holidays.

October 22, 2016 – April 9, 2017 (but special performances from 11/26 – 12/25)

2013 illumination sagamiko 2images courtesy lalacreer

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But for the absolute largest display of lights in all of Japan you’re going to have to head farther down south to Mie prefecture. The Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination boasts 7 million LED bulbs that are sure to satisfy your luminous desires. The main attraction is, of course, the light tunnel – a long archway decked out in yellow lights that will make you feel like you’re walking under the milky way. But there are also many other sights that rival the tunnel like the twin trees and a light bulb representation of Mt. Fuji.

October 15, 2016 – May 7, 2017

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In Tokushima, the city of water (138 rivers flow through it) TeamLab is putting on a display of light, sound and digital technology to transform Shinmachi Riverside Park into a digital art space. It’s all part of the 2016 Tokushima LED Art Festival. TeamLab will be staging several exhibitions that include “Shimmering River of Resonating Spheres” and “Riverside Christmas Tree.”

December 16 – December 25, 2016



1 Comment

  1. Also, Osaka’s Kansai Airport (KIX) has an impressive runway illumination in green trees and blue snowflakes. See if you can get an image. Ho, Ho, Ho.

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